Has your doctor diagnosed you with depression? Chances are getting out of bed is hard enough. Then you also have the task of caring for your children, in addition to all the other responsibilities on your plate. Consider trying some or all of the following strategies to make your road to recovery a little smoother for yourself and your family.
Create a daily plan
When you are depressed, getting through the day can be a challenge, so create a balanced plan. Mary Ellen Copeland is the author of a practical and thorough guide to coping with depression symptoms called, The Depression Workbook: A Guide for Living with Depression and Manic Depression. Copeland provides great tools for creating what she calls a “Wellness Recovery Action Plan.” One piece of the plan is to make a schedule for your day that includes things you have to do and things that you would normally enjoy doing. Copeland recommends pushing yourself gently to do the things you have enjoyed doing in the past even though you have no desire to do them now.
Ask for help
Depression makes it easy to criticize yourself for needing support. However, when you accept or reach out for support, you are taking a step to reduce the impact of depression on yourself and your loved ones. Even though it feels uncomfortable, push through your discomfort with asking for or accepting help. It will allow you to get back to being the kind of parent you want to be.
Limited support network?
There are other options for getting support for yourself if you do not have a reliable network to call upon. You can get support online. There are a number of online depression support groups. Check out: DailyStrength.org or OnlineTherapyUser.org.
Simplify your life
Pare down your responsibilities. Depression can be very draining, so you do not want to be pulled in too many directions. You will want to call upon your support network to share the housework and childcare. Whether you have a reliable support network or not, decide what you can comfortably handle and let the rest go.
Reassure your kids
If your children are old enough, explain to them that you are not feeling well, but that you hope to feel better soon. Children tend to blame themselves when things are in crisis at home. You will want to reassure them that you are getting help and that how you feel is not their fault. You may also want to call upon friends or family to spend quality time with your children. This way the onus is not on you to meet all of your children’s needs, while you are recovering from a depressive episode.
To medicate or not to medicate?
In 2013, Dr. Wayne Katon and Dr. Paul Ciechanowski, reviewed the available literature on depression in adults. They found that the most effective way to reduce depressive symptoms was to use a combination of medication and psychotherapy. However, they also found that there were still benefits to be found if either medication or psychotherapy were used separately. Their recommendation was to try both first and then adjust your treatment plan as needed. If you and your doctor decide that medication is right for you, be patient with the process. Don’t give up on using an anti-depressant if it is not immediately helpful. Remember that using medication is a trial-and-error process. Problem solve with your doctor to address any side effects or concerns that arise while you are trying to find the right medication and dose.
Make a decision about talk therapy
Finding a reputable therapist and then finding the time to go to therapy can be a tall order. If you are able to overcome these two challenges, you will discover that the benefits of psychotherapy are long lasting. Katon and Ciechanowski found that relapse into depression happened less for people who engaged in therapy. Specifically, they found that cognitive behavior therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy were the most effective forms of psychotherapies for depression. Alternatively, they found that when people only took an anti-depressant and then stopped taking it, their symptoms tended to come back. These findings were specific to people with mild to moderate depression.
If your doctor diagnosed you with mild to moderate depression, ask around for referrals to reputable therapists. You can also access counseling through your employer. Find out if your company offers an Employee Assistance Program. This will give you free and confidential access to a therapist. Some therapists will offer counseling by phone or online. These options are great for reducing travel time, but you should still find a way to keep your children occupied or cared for by someone else, so you can reap the long term benefits of therapy.
Taking these important steps will not be a quick fix, but they can make a difference in how you feel. Trust that you will not always feel like this. As you get the support you need to recover, you will move back to being yourself and the kind of parent you want to be.
Karyn Robinson-Renaud MSW, RSW is a freelance journalist.